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Sports: World Baseball Classic 2023

Puerto Rico near-perfect in shutout of Israel at World Baseball Classic

A “mercy rule” keeps Puerto Rico’s 10-0 victory out of official record books as a perfect game.

Edwin Díaz, of Puerto Rico, pitches against Matt Mervis, of Israel, at the World Baseball Classic on March 13, 2023. Credit: Courtesy of Major League Baseball.
Edwin Díaz, of Puerto Rico, pitches against Matt Mervis, of Israel, at the World Baseball Classic on March 13, 2023. Credit: Courtesy of Major League Baseball.

A bit of World Baseball Classic mercy turned an almost perfect game on Monday into a 10-0 Puerto Rico win against hitless Israel over eight innings.

Maor Elbaz-Starinsky, consul general of Israel in Miami, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the game, where the overwhelming majority of the 27,813 fans in attendance wore Puerto Rico colors. Those fans had the chance to cheer throughout.

Enrique “Kiké” Hernández’s RBI single in the eighth put Puerto Rico up by 10, which brought the game to an immediate close due to the “run rule,” also known as the “mercy rule.” The World Baseball Classic puts such a rule into effect if one team leads by 15 after the fifth inning or by 10 after seven innings, and only during pool play, early on in the tournament.

Perfect pitching by four Puerto Rican pitchers combined to retire all 24 Israeli hitters, but Puerto Rico would have needed to record a complete game to enter the official record book as a perfect game.

“They are a good squad. They do their homework,” Dean Kremer, an Israeli-American and Baltimore Orioles pitcher for Israel who watched the game from the dugout, told JNS. “We got some swings. We just got unlucky. The cards fell how they did.”

Puerto Rico’s explosive bats came alive in the bottom of the first inning and remained hot for the entire game.

Explanation of the “mercy rule” at the World Baseball Classic game between Israel and Puerto Rico on March 13, 2023. Photo by Howard Blas.

Israel is now 1-1 with Venezuela (2-0), Puerto Rico (2-1), Nicaragua (0-3) and the Dominican Republic (1-1). Israel faces the Dominican Republic on March 14.

“It’s perfect for us,” said Puerto Rico starting pitcher Jose De Leon, whose 5.2 innings spearheaded the two-time WBC runners-up. De Leon tied a WBC record with 10 strikeouts.

The game was seemingly out of reach early with Puerto Rico building a 6-0 lead after three innings.

Puerto Rico’s explosive bats came alive in the bottom of the first inning and remained hot for the entire game.

Fans cheer at the World Baseball Classic game between Israel and Puerto Rico on March 13, 2023. Photo by Howard Blas.

Israel came from behind to win its first game of the WBC against Nicaragua on Sunday.

Israel is in Pool D in the tournament, which has been dubbed the “group of death” due to the extremely strong competition.

Israel’s team has 13 current or former Major League Baseball players and eight Minor League prospects, who might play in the majors next year. Ten hold Israeli citizenship.

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